Archives for October 2006

Works For Me

This tip is either a few hours late or almost a year early, I’m not sure which. But I wanted to toss it out here before I forget about it.

Hubby and I have never been super thrilled over lighting a pumpkin indoors with a candle with a zillion little kids around. Just doesn’t seem safe, especially with the way kids are drawn to candles.

Last year my man had a brilliant idea. We had a extra set of those rope lights– you know, the kind you can use to illuminate a plant shelf or the underside of a kitchen cabinet? He bored a hole in the back side of the pumkin, coiled a set of lights inside the hollowed out pumpkin, then poked the plug-end of the lights out the back of the pumpkin like a little tail. Plug it in and you have light– without the fire hazard! Works for us!

Go to Rocks in My Dryer for more great ideas.

Photos this week

At the corn maze (dad & baby took the picture)

With the little girls


Dad’s pumpkin masterpiece

Another reason to love blogging

AfrindieMum is throwing a baby shower. Go see if you can help!


So today at nearly noon, I finally managed to get dressed. I came out of the bedroom in a ratty t-shirt and jeans, no makeup and, hmm…can’t remember if I’d combed my hair at that point yet. Hubby was stoking the fire- it’s chilly around these parts today– but he got up to give me a smooch and an admiring look anyway.

“Hey, look,” I said, “it only took me till noon to get dressed!” Mentally I was beating myself up for having such a lazy morning.

“So what?” he said, shrugging. “You’ve been doing lots of other stuff this morning.”

And you know what? He was right. Before breakfast I made great strides on my writing project– the query letter is 2/3 done, I think. And by noon I had already done math, English, science, reading, and handwriting with my younger kids.

Yeah. I got a lot done this morning. Regardless of what I was wearing.

Bless me husband for seeing that and reminding me.


So I’ve been reading here and there on the internet about bloggers participating in NaNoWriMo and the NaBloPoMo permutation of that challenge.

I don’t want to write a novel, and if you’ve been reading me for more than a day or two, you know I don’t have trouble posting every day. Here’s what I would really like to do, however.

During the month of November I plan to write a non-fiction book proposal. Once I pull together my best effort, I’ll be querying 2 or 3 dozen literary agents, hoping to get an agent and eventually a book deal of my very own.

A big dream. Gargantuan, actually. As my fingers tap out this message, there is a troll-under-the-bridge voice in my head saying, ‘You think you’re special? everyone wants to write a book..what makes you think you can get published?’

There is a part of me that wants to listen to the troll, wants to hold down the delete button till all these bold words are gone and I am once again left with an empty text box to fill.

But you know what? If I don’t try this, I’ll never know if I can succeed at it. I refuse to be one of those people who at age 80 says, maybe I could have done that… I wish I’d tried.

Nope. I’m trying. Even if I fail.

Or succeed.


Anybody else have a book in them crying for ink and paper? If so, come write with me in November.

Pressing ‘publish’. Right. Now.


Wollaitta, Ethiopia, hometown of both my daughters

Matthew 9:36

A joke compliments of my 4 year old

–“What did a girl do when she got locked in a room and she couldn’t get out?”

–“I don’t know, what did she do?”

–“She found a piano with a lot of keys and she picked the right key and she got out!”

Opinion Saturday

(edited to fix link)

Feeling totally unimaginitive today– and busy. We’re headed to the corn maze this morning– and this evening my hubby and I are actually going out on a DATE– ye haw! So here’s the plan. Sometime between now and Tuesday evening, YOU come up with an interesting Opinion Saturday discussion question.

I’ll give the Golden Keyboard Award to the person whose question I like the very best, and I’ll feature several of the best ones over the next few weeks, with credit given each week to the question creator. You can use the search feature in the upper right-hand corner on my blog to see the types of questions I’ve done in the past– just type in ‘Opinion Saturday’. Sound good? Hit me with your best question.

Also I wanted to mention that I have a new post up at titled ‘Q&A – Finding Harmony on Family Size’ Go comment, OK?

Have a great weekend!

‘Our’ child

In September I talked about using our 30 Days of Nothing savings to sponsor an AHOPE child. Today I wrote about that child on my Ethiopia blog.

And speaking of children who wait, I wish you would all go over and give Avery and Heather your support as their wait for their children to come home has been extended yet again.

Frugal Friday: Let’s go shopping! (long)

In a comment on my recent money post over at, Sheryl asked me to talk about how we manage to get by on $700 a month for groceries.

I’ve been trying to think of the best way to do this and decided that the simplest way is to take you on a trip to the grocery store with me. You see, to tell the story, I have to show you what I do not buy, as well as what I do buy.

So grab your coffee or tea and come along with me!

My favorite store, and the most affordable in our area, is Winco. It’s a basic chain grocery store with a good bulk food dept and a ‘bag your own groceries’ policy. That policy was a little hassle when I only had little kids, but now I have teenagers and rarely shop without at least one kid big enough to bag.

Straight inside the doors at Winco, customers are funneled down an aisle of ‘special deals’. Things in this aisle are placed randomly, so there’s no comparing prices to other brands of the same item. I grab only things I’m certain are great deals, like 99 cent corn flakes. When I see them at this price, I buy 6 boxes or so.

At the end of this aisle isPRODUCE Staples I always keep around include bananas, carrots, onions, potatoes, garlic, ginger root, and cabbage. These items are almost always a good value. Things I buy occasionally for specific recipes or when on sale include mushrooms, bagged lettuce, broccoli slaw, grapes (if $1/lb), broccoli, egg roll wrappers, green peppers (if 3 for $1), green onions, limes, and cilantro. Things I buy only in season include strawberries, peaches, watermelon, oranges, and canteloupe.

Things I don’t buy: pretty much everything else. And keep in mind that because of our garden and greenhouse and extensive canning, we almost always have some form of tomatoes, apples, lettuce, and corn on hand.

From produce I move on to BULK FOOD. Here I always buy chocolate chips, coconut, barley, cornmeal, lentils. Cinnamon and other spices are MUCH cheaper than the expensive jarred spices in the baking aisle, and for 25 cents or so you can even buy little containers for the spices. Also here they sell 25 lb. bags of oatmeal and rice. Very occasionally, I also buy gummy bears here, but I really try to steer clear of the other candy.

Next is MEAT.
This is a make or break department as far as the budget goes, in my opinion. First I get cheese–anything that is $2/lb or less is fair game- usually Winco offers 2 or 3 kinds of block cheese for that price, as well as 5 lb bags of grated cheddar. All else I pass up. (And actually, whenever possible I buy my cheese at Costco– as they consistently have the best prices – 5lb of grated mozzerella for $8!) And people, did you know you can freeze grated cheese? Works great. There’s no excuse to buy those expensive weensie bags- not if you’re on a budget, anyway.

Next I look for hamburger. I try to stock up when it is $1.50/lb or less. Recently I found 5 lb ‘logs’ of hamburger for $1/lb. I bought 40 lbs, thus saving me from higher prices for weeks. I don’t buy the more expensive lean burger– I just drain off the obvious fat and call it good. We use meat more as a condiment than a main dish anyway. A pound and a half is enough in a stirfry along with a ton of veggies for everyone.

I sometimes buy thin-cut top round steak when it is $1.75/lb or less- I use this in stirfries. I also buy a couple meals worth of hot dogs each month. I’m picky about my hot dogs– they’ve gotta be Falls Brand Beef– and that brand is expensive enough that I don’t serve them super often. Sometimes I get those ‘little sizzler’ boxed sausages to go with eggs for breakfast.

Going over to chicken, I buy whatever is less than $1/lb. Sometimes I buy the fryer leg quarters in 10 lb bags for 49 cents/lb. I freeze thighs in packets big enough for a meal (14 or so) and then boil the legs and freeze the meat for casseroles. Lately I have seen some really good prices on chicken breasts- 89 cents a pound recently for bone-in breasts, and yeah, I bought a bunch. It really helps to stock up when the price is right. Several times each winter I buy a whole turkey when they are on great sales, and do a turkey dinner just for us.

Let’s see, what else in the meat dept? Always cream cheese, generic brand. Formed hamburger patties– these are about $1.60/lb but we always BBQ them and I really like the uniform sizes for BBQ-ing. When I form them by hand, they are uneven in size and it is harder to make sure they get cooked right. Sometimes I get generic-brand thin sliced ham in family packs, and less often, bacon– maybe a pound every month or two. Sometimes I’ll buy a roast. Sometimes, if I’m planning to make meatloaf, I’ll buy ground turkey to mix half and half with the hamburger to make it lower fat.

I never buy steak, or any other meat that is more than $2/lb. Thankfully I have a hubby who is fine with skipping steak. If he wanted it, we’d buy it, but I’d probably serve him steak and give the kids hamburgers. I’m just cheap like that…
From meat I move on to dairy. Usually I buy eggs at Walmart. You can get mediums for 50 cents a dozen there– a great deal, though you have to look for the mediums. They don’t stock many, and they DON’T put the price on the shelf- sneaky people! We go through at least 4 dozen eggs a week. A dozen is enough for one meal– you can’t beat 50 cents for a whole meals’ worth of protein.

Several in our family drink soy milk instead of regular milk, which thanks to our soy milk machine is cheaper anyway. But we go through a couple gallons a week of regular milk. We also always buy real butter for baking, light sour cream, and margarine. Sometimes we buy yogurt or cottage cheese.
Next to dairy is frozen stuff. We always buy ice cream ($5/gallon or less-NOT Ben and Jerry’s!!) and calcium-fortified OJ- (88 cents a can for concentrateWe drink probably 4 gallons a week.)

Sometimes I buy Asian-style frozen veggies for stir-fry or generic cool whip to top pumpkin pie. Once a month or so I buy fish sticks or corn dogs or frozen salmon. I love salmon, but I am such a tightwad I just can’t stand to spend $10 JUST for the meat for a meal…

In the frozen department, my NEVER-BUY list offer me pretty significant savings. I never buy TV dinners or burritos or chicken nuggets or steak fries or Lean Cuisine or fancy brands of juice or mini-pizza-whatchamacallits (well, OK, twice a year or so I’ll buy those 2/$4 pizzas at Walmart. But really, it is extremely, extremely rarely.) Premade ‘convenience’ food will put your grocery bill thru the roof in nothing flat.

I’m aware I may be coming off as a bit obsessive. I want to make it clear I’m not making value judgements against people who DO buy things I don’t. I am simply (and apparently very long-windedly) explaining how we keep our budget low. I’m used to shopping this way– I like the challenge. We eat lots of variety, we’re all healthy (PTL) and it works for us! Hopefully it might offer insight for others trying to work within a budget as well.

Speaking of long-winded, I think I will wrap this post up, while I still (hopefully) have one or two readers with me. Next week I will talk about the center aisles of the store.

Click here for more Frugal Friday posts.

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